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Women's History Month: Sachelle Reed - Balancing Motherhood and a Journalism Career

In the dynamic and challenging world of journalism, Sachelle Reed stands out as a paragon of resilience, determination, and inspiration. Her story, interwoven with the ethos of Women's History Month, highlights the struggles and triumphs of women in the media industry. 


Sachelle's journey from a young girl fascinated by news to a respected journalist is a testament to her passion, dedication, and the impact she has made on her community and beyond.



Early Inspirations

From an early age, Sachelle Reed was captivated by the power of storytelling and the role of journalists in shaping public discourse. 


“I used to eat my cereal in the morning watching the news,” recalls Sachelle. “I also love to question people and hear people's stories. I have this strong sense of justice... add those all together and it ended with the journalism career.”


Growing up, Sachelle found inspiration in the figures she saw on television, especially those who broke barriers and challenged norms. On a national level, that person was Oprah Winfrey. In Rockford, it was local news anchor Mary Stoker Smith, the only African-American anchorwoman in the city at the time.


“I remember watching her when I was younger and just being amazed and wanting to be like her.”


In 2012, Nexstar Media Group named Sachelle the weekday anchor of a brand new morning show on Fox 39. At that moment, Sachelle became an inspiration to young black girls, just like Stoker Smith was for her.


“I don't think I recognized the gravity of it until I was in the position and then just the amazing amount of support that I received from the community. I'm born and raised in Rockford… Little girls coming up to me believing that now they could do this. It was a big deal that I didn't realize until I was already in the position.”


More than a decade in journalism saw Sachelle rise from a general assignment reporter and anchor at WTVO-17 in her hometown of Rockford to doing what she does best at the CBS affiliates in Orlando and Milwaukee. She now works at Spectrum News in Milwaukee. 


And, the Rockford icon who unknowingly planted the seeds of Sachelle’s journalism career, is no longer just a figure from her past.


“[Mary Stoker Smith and I] now work in the same city and are good friends.”


Overcoming Challenges

Numerous challenges marked Sachelle's path to success, including navigating the complexities of motherhood. She had her first child while attending Columbia College in Chicago.


“I was scared. I was really young. I was the first to attend college in my family.”


Sachelle’s family, though, share a vice-grip like bond. Sachelle determined the best way to get her degree and raise her daughter was with the help of her family, as well as with the girl’s father, whom Sachelle had been dating since their days at Auburn High School. So, she moved back home and commuted. Even with the support, it wasn’t always easy. But, Sachelle drew inspiration from a friend and fellow Renegade.


“Another girl, a woman who I went to school with who had a child the year prior, and she was commuting from Saint Louis to Chicago to finish out her degree. And I said, if she can do that, I can do this. And I've let her know plenty of times.”


Sachelle also drew strength from herself.


“Once I found out I was pregnant and then especially once I found out it was a girl, I said, I have to be the example for her.”


Navigating a Career with a Family

Like many women in other fields, female journalists often choose to hold off on starting a family.

 

“Women wait ten, 15, 20 years into being in the business, and then they're like, ‘Okay, I have to have kids now because the clock is ticking,’ and then they are able to have kids and they tend to leave the business at that point.”


But, Sachelle knew early on she wanted children and refused to let her career get in the way.


“My priority was still being a mom and being the type of woman that my… children could admire. That was always the most important thing to me. I always had to juggle both. So it just felt natural, just felt like this was what I was supposed to be doing.”


Sachelle credits the amazing support system she had at home, especially from her mother and grandmother to help balance out the demands in the newsroom and at home.


“I think that the village is what keeps our children from getting into trouble, helps them to succeed and also helps you, helps you to keep your mind. I've seen a lot of individualism type behavior with mothers, mothers being overwhelmed.”


Sachelle says understands why a lot of career women may hesitate to start a family. But, for those who are only delaying it because of the negative impact it might have on their career, Sachelle shares this observation: “I don't hear women saying that they regret at the point of putting that as priority. You only have so much time. I do talk to a lot of women who regret not starting the family and now being at the point that they can no longer do it. I should say try to build a support system, a village. I think that's the most important thing when it comes to having kids, regardless of if you have a career or not.. I would say come up with the plan. Go toward what your heart wants.”


Sachelle certainly followed her heart. She, along with her loving husband Josh Reed, are raising five beautiful children: three girls and two boys. The couple recently celebrated the births of twins.


The Gender Pay Gap

Despite her accomplishments, Sachelle’s career was not immune to the systemic inequalities that plague the journalism industry. Specifically, the race & gender pay gap. She revealed not once, but twice - she was offered a job that fell well short of a white, male counterpart with less experience.


“Not a couple thousand dollars - $20,000 - $30,000. I found these things out by accident the first time. The second time a person told me how much they made, and then I was offered a similar job and the offer was much lower than I knew he was getting paid,” Sachelle recalls. “It’s a little disheartening as you work in your field and you work to be the best and you do what you have to do to know that they will undercut you by so much and to not even know that those possibilities of pay were even there until you find out what the person next to you is getting.”


Following one of her job offers, Sachelle wrote a letter to the station during negotiations. 


“[I] explained the pay gap, the cost of living… [and] how I thought it was unfair how women, black women, are paid less.”


This story, however, has a happy ending. Sachelle says the station raised their offer to eliminate the pay gap.


Making an Impact at Home

Working in her hometown of Rockford, Sachelle experienced firsthand the unique fulfillment that comes from serving one's community. 


“Highlight was working at home. I don't think you can beat being at home. I started off here at home in Rockford.”


Her deep connections to the area and its residents enriched her reporting, allowing her to tell stories with empathy and insight. Sachelle's work in Rockford exemplifies the vital role of local journalism in fostering community bonds, accountability, and positive change. Her impact on her community underscores the importance of representation and the power of journalism to effect real-world outcomes.


“I knew that people that I was reporting on and I already had that community. So when I was telling a story, whether it be something traumatic or even just something happy and I know his grandmother or, you know, I am friends with the sister - it makes it so much more meaningful to be able to tell the stories of people that I know.”


Industry Evolution and the Digital Age

As the media landscape continues to evolve, Sachelle has witnessed firsthand the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital age. 


“We know that women are objectified in TV… the types of comments that I see to my colleagues, to myself talking about their bodies… talking about objectifying them or, you know, calling them names or speaking on their weight if they don't feel like it should be what they would like it to be.”


The rise of social media has transformed the way journalists interact with their audience, offering new platforms for engagement but also exposing them to increased scrutiny and harassment. 


“If you really want to speak to me, jump on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or TikTok and you could get a response from me immediately, oftentimes. It also means that people can say something to you any time, whenever. And we know that people are in the comments saying all types of inappropriate things to women, period.”


However, Sachelle does take notice when social media users jump in to defend her and her colleagues from the online trolls.


“More people are willing to step up and say, hey, that was inappropriate. You don't say that to people. You don't comment on her weight or you don't have to tell her you didn't like her makeup.”


She’s even seen her in-person interactions with viewers changing for the better as well.


“I get so many more disclaimers when people compliment me now. But I'm glad that people are more aware. I'm glad that men are more aware of what impact their comments might have. And so people are becoming more educated.”


Advice for Aspiring Journalists

To the young women embarking on a career in journalism, Sachelle stresses there is a difference between journalists and influencers. 


According to a Reuters Institute study, a majority of social media users find influencers to be more credible in their reporting than journalists. In the never-ending battle for engagement, Sachelle says she has seen news reporters try to attract viewers with more than just their news gathering abilities.


“A lot of women feel like they have to put themselves forward in ways that are more suggestive or share more of their lives than they feel comfortable… I want women to know that you don't have to do that… we have to start now with saying, ‘Hey, we're not going to do that.’”


Sachelle’s story is a powerful testament to the strength, determination, and resilience of women in journalism. Her journey, marked by challenges overcome and barriers broken, serves as an inspiration not only during Women's History Month but throughout the year. Her legacy is one of hope, change, and the enduring power of storytelling to shape the world for the better. Her contributions to journalism and her community remind us of the vital role women play in the media and the ongoing fight for equality, representation, and justice.



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